Context

Are you being clear with your audience?

In The New Small, I make the point that many very successful small business owners are great lawyers, accountants, and computer technicians. They do what they do well but, by virtue of being small, don’t do some things as well as others. That’s a given. No one can be great at everything. So, where can many small biz owners improve? Website content and marketing come to mind.

With respect to marketing, it’s easy to look at boutique marketing agencies for guidance—and, ultimately, results. After all, they’re the experts, right? The same holds true for highly touted services. You may not get any individual attention, but you’re spending less money on some type of program that (again) is supposed to yield results.

Are these programs worth their costs?

Perhaps, but be wary of potentially specious claims like the one mentioned in this post.

marketing_claims

The ad above appears in my Gmail, a tool that, like millions of other people, I use to manage many different e-mail accounts. For those of you familiar with Google’s e-mail offering, the ad above is redacted from a marketing agency. In all likelihood, you’ve seen these many times before and may not even notice them.

But I digress.

Mark Twain famously popularized the aphorism, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Case in point: 99.34% email delivered.

Numbers without Context

So, what’s my issue with an ostensibly high e-mail delivery percentage? Simple: the number has no context. In fact, it provokes more questions than it answers. Here’s a biggie: What’s the average e-mail delivery success percentage?

If the industry average is 98 percent then 99.34 percent is pretty good. But what if the average is 99.999 percent? If so, then 99.34 percent is actually pretty poor. We just don’t know from that stat.

Disclaimer

Now, Gmail only allows one line and a relatively small number of characters per ad. Gmail would not have take off to the extent that it has if massive ads crowded the basic viewing space. (As an aside, I wonder if Facebook is pushing the envelop too much by Nascar-izing its pages.)

Am I carping here? I don’t think so. 99.34 percent still means that 66 out of 10,000 e-mails are not delivered.

Now, I’m sure that I easily send 100 e-mails per day ranging from:

  • See the Federer match last night?
  • Any update on the status of my claim?
  • Here’s the proposal for six months of consulting.

A better way to phrase a sites email delivery ratio would include context. For example, the product or service delivers 47% more emails than XYZ. How about 23 percent fewer email bounces than industry average.

Bottom line: I don’t care about all emails equally and I’ve been emailing for nearly 20 years. I am well aware that all technologies carry risks with them and always have. Delivering mail is at least conceptually the same as making a phone call or sending an email. But one question remains: Is 99.34% good or not?

Feedback

What say you?


This post originally appeared on the American Express Open Forum.

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